Post Office tries to put brakes on strike

2014-09-19 20:52

The South African Post Office (Sapo) is “engaging in fruitful discussions with leaders from three worker unions in a bid to bring the industrial action by employees to a swift end”.

Post office employees embarked on an unprotected strike last week over management dragging its heels to convert casual workers into permanent staff.

This is the implementation of Sapo’s flexible labour strategy which was approved in 2013 to convert 7945 casual workers into permanent employees.

According to Sapo, the strategy adopted was a phased approach where casual workers were offered permanent but part-time positions as an alternative to being contracted to the company through labour brokers.

“The aim of the flexible labour strategy has always been to advance the part-time employees to more permanent positions with full benefits. However, a staggered approach had to be adopted given the difficult financial position the company is in,” said Sapo Group Chief Operating Officer Mlu Mathonsi.

“Disputes with unions are around agreements made at the time that casual workers would be employed in entry level positions with limited benefits.

Advancement to full-time positions with full benefits would only be made available if and when Sapo was in a financial position to do so.

This was the only way Sapo could permanently employ the large number of casual workers,” added Mathonsi.

He said since the process started in 2013, more than 2000 casual employees have been given permanent contracts; and that recently Sapo had concluded 600 more permanent contracts while 900 additional workers have also been issued with permanent contracts.

“Our aim is to have all 4928 casual workers contracted as permanent part-time employees by 1 December 2014,” he said.

Communication Workers Union (CWU) Matankana spokesperson Mothapo said employees were angered by the order of the conversion.

He said Sapo was starting with casual employees who were brought in last.

“Why would they employ only recent casual employees and not the ones from long ago? There are employees who have been there for ten to fifteen years who are casual workers,” said Mothapo.

Sapo employees have been involved in various unprotected strikes since January, which has caused interruptions in the post office’s sorting and distribution processes resulting in delays in postal and parcel deliveries to consumers.

Sapo has estimated that mail in the Western Cape is delayed by roughly four working days, while mail in Gauteng is delayed by several weeks.

Sapo said it has put contingency plans in place to mitigate service disruptions and will keep customers updated on any new developments that may affect them.

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